Communication isn't only about words or silence. It's about tone of voice and the body language that accompanies words. It's about our actions or lack of them. Communication is a two-way street. Often I inhibit that reciprocity because I'm too caught up in what I'm doing to take the time and effort to communicate better.

Intentional communication doesn't come easily, but being intentional about communicating love and respect goes a long way. First, though, we each have to discover what communicates love and respect to the other in order to act on it. Jim's learning not to expect much of me when I'm busy. In turn, I make an effort to stop what I'm doing to give him my attention so I can better communicate.

Jim knows that giving me a few hours off to browse in a bookstore does more for me than a bouquet of flowers. I know that complimenting him on the yard or letting him watch a football game with his friends without putting a guilt trip on him about "family time" communicates something special to him.

Prayer

There's no substitute for praying together. Nothing touches me more than my husband being vulnerable in the presence of Almighty God. Nothing is more powerful than him interceding for our family. And there's nothing that binds us together more powerfully than bowing before our Lord in worship, praise, and intercession. As we come before Him, the hurts, pettiness, and stresses that can cloud our relationship dissipate in the light of His grace. 

Service

Marriage is all about putting each other's needs ahead of our own, and I often fail miserably. Most days, I am so spent meeting everyone else's needs that when Jim comes home, I feel I have nothing left to give. He's an adult, he can fend for himself, I rationalize.

The last thing Jim wants to do after a 12- to 13-hour day is wash the dishes or put our baby to bed, but he does it out of love, to meet my needs. Mike Mason in The Mystery of Marriage writes, "However much we may wish to be left alone, it is not an option. It is the one thing that God and marriage refuse to allow us . . . [There is] no life apart from the sharing of ourselves with another" —even when we don't feel like it. 

Evaluating Expectations

Expectations play a powerful role in relationships, especially in marriage. They influence the way Jim and I relate and respond to each other. The problem is that since they function subconsciously, often we don't even realize we have expectations of each other until disappointment sets in. And many times, my expectations are unrealistic.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts" (Psalm 139: 23) is my frequent prayer. We are learning to be honest with each other about our expectations in an atmosphere that is accepting and noncritical. In his book As for Me and My House: Crafting Your Marriage to Last, Walt Wangerin Jr. writes, "Honesty in you likewise hides nothing of your whole self from your spouse." Prayerfully, we work toward finding a balance between our expectations and our realities.

God As the Foundation

Christ is to be the foundation of our lives, marriage and family. But that's not going to happen if Jim and I are not serious about our individual relationships with Him. The Christian life is not a stagnant one. It's one of growth, born out of a constant hunger and thirst for Him.

Faithfulness to Bible study, prayer, and worship in our personal lives permeates our marriage and family and draws us closer to Jesus. "Spiritual discipline is to the inner spirit what physical conditioning is to the body" (Gordon MacDonald, Rebuilding Your Broken World). 

No marriage is immune to the pressures and challenges of life. The Christian family is under attack as never before. But intentionally focusing on the Lord, keeping Him as the cornerstone of our lives, makes all the difference.

When the storms come—and they will—when the winds blow—and they will—we have an anchor that remains steadfast no matter what.

Several months have passed since our Chateau Élan getaway. Though intentionality in our marriage spells hard work and commitment, Jim and I are discovering that our Chateau Élan can be right here, at home, even in the midst of our busy lives. 

*This article published March 15, 2010


As one who daily needs and experiences the depth and power of God's grace, Anita Mellott writes from the heart about real-life issues. A homeschooling mom, she writes words of encouragement and hope at From the Mango Tree.

This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb '10 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Now, get a FREE subscription to the HSE Digital Edition! Visit www.HSEmagazine.com/digital today to get immediate access to the latest edition!